The hashtag game started in 2007, and nobody’s looked back since. Looking for an easier way to organize content and be able to get it out to relevant viewers, Twitter user and tech expert Chris Messina changed the way that content becomes discoverable on social media forever.
Since 2007, hashtag strategy has become a vital part of any social media network, but increasingly so on Instagram. If you want your content to be seen by more people in your target audience, you’ve got to know which hashtags to use.
While the idea of using hashtags is really straightforward and simple, choosing the right ones for your content can be somewhat of a challenge. There are so many options out there and so many different opinions that it can ultimately be overwhelming.
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags on a post, but the magic number has been debated for quite some time. We’re going to give you all the deets on how to use hashtags best on Instagram, and how to find the right ones for optimal discoverability.
Whether you’re new to the hashtag arena or you’re looking to up your game, our tips will help you take your Instagram hashtag strategy to the next level. One thing you should do before we get started is make sure your account is set to public and also as a professional account, and here’s why:
Your hashtags will get more reach if your account is public, and you’ll get valuable analytics about content performance that you’ll need when your account is set as a professional account. Do yourself a favor and make sure that you’ve got both of those things going for your Instagram.
Alright, on that note, let’s get tagging!
Instagram Hashtags Tip 1: Check Out Your Competition
While we don’t condone cheating or stealing content from others, there’s nothing wrong with checking out what your competitors are doing to pick up a thing or two about the patterns and norms in your niche.
If you notice that a few competitors are using a specific hashtag, there’s no harm in trying it out on your posts as well. After all, hashtags aren’t owned by anyone, so they’re up for grabs. One thing you may want to avoid, however, is using competitors’ branded hashtags.
When they are branded hashtags, they’re meant for that brand or business specifically, so it probably won’t do you much good to show up in their hashtag feed, as that seems a bit strange and desperate. If you see them using a branded hashtag, let that inspire you to create your own.
Make sure that you look at competitors that are successful on Instagram and have profiles that align with the type of profile you’d like to one day achieve; you don’t want to pick up bad strategy from people who don’t have optimal hashtag use.
That being said, there’s a lot that can be learned from competitors in your market, and all you have to do is take what you observe and implement them in a few tests.
Whenever you do hashtag tests, make sure that you post similar content so you can make sure that the hashtag is, in fact, the reason for the better performance and not some other factor related to the content itself.
Instagram Hashtags Tip 2: Research Hashtag Feeds
The good thing about Instagram these days is that they’ve optimized the way that users experience and use hashtags. You can now not only use hashtags on your posts, but you can search hashtag feeds and also follow specific hashtags.
This is really important because researching specific hashtags can give you a better understanding of your target audience. You can see what kind of users are engaging with content on that hashtag feed and decide if it’s a valuable tag for you to use.
One thing that you should avoid is using hashtags that are overly general or extremely overused; if you tag a post with #fashion, odds are that there are thousands of posts being uploaded with that tag at the moment you’re uploading yours. Your post will get shoved down the hashtag feed, being seen by hardly anyone.
Stick to hashtags that are niche-specific and are more connected to your brand and content. You can even alter hashtags to include a location, such as #goodfoodNYC so that it becomes more specific without being overly complicated.
If you have good engagement levels on your posts, you can also end up as a feature on the hashtag feed “top” section, which is great for gaining even more reach.
The final benefit of researching hashtag feeds is that you can see what kind of content appears; does it look similar to yours? Does your content fit well with other content in this feed? What kind of additional hashtags are these users attaching to their content? Taking a look at all of these things can help you have maximal performance for your hashtag strategy.
Instagram Hashtags Tip 3: Look for Related Hashtags
There are a few ways that you can find related hashtags to the ones you’re already using. This is a great way to find more relevant hashtags and expand your strategy without stretching too far from your niche.
There are a variety of third party hashtag tools that will allow you to search for similar hashtags and get some generated for you; these hashtag tools can also tell you how certain hashtags are performing and which ones are trending.
If you don’t want to do that, you can add this idea into your research and keep your eye out for posts that use hashtags similar to the ones you are using. You can add these in and do a few test posts to make sure that they’re working for you.
Instagram Hashtags Tip 4: Place your Hashtags Strategically
Instagram is no dummy, and they are aware of people who try to use too many hashtags or overload their captions with a bunch of them. This doesn’t provide a good user experience and may cause your content to perform poorly against the algorithm.
While you can use up to 30, you’ll notice that a few can suffice if you choose the best ones that are connected to your niche and are specific enough; some social media gurus speculate that anywhere from 7-11 may be the magic number. Once you decide, there are a few different ways that you can incorporate them in your captions.
You can incorporate them into your caption itself, like this: “what a #beautifulbeachday we had this morning!” Of course you can make it longer, but you can see how hashtags can be incorporated directly in the content.
You can also include them after your caption, grouped together. Some people like to space them out and have them go below the “see more” option by using the “enter” key and spacing them down.
Another way is to use the first comment to include hashtags. If you don’t want a bunch of hashtags cluttering up your amazing caption, you can just post the hashtags in a comment after you post your content, that way you still include them but they aren’t bothersome to your followers and content viewers.
Instagram Hashtags Tip 5: Use What Works
One thing that you have to be aware of is your Instagram performance based off of the hashtags you use, which you can track on Instagram analytics. Look back and see which of your posts got the most reach and engagements, and then confirm which hashtags you used.
This can be a good way to track successful posts and try to recapture that success through the use of hashtags. The main thing you want to do is look for trends and patterns, and always be aware of how your content is performing. If you have no idea what’s going on with your account, you can’t perpetuate a successful strategy.
Another good option to continue reaping success is to create a branded hashtag that you always use with your content. Not only will you give your followers something to tag you with, but all posts using that hashtag will appear in one specific feed, which is also great for generating interest around your account and building up an accessible content base outside of your profile. That’s great for credibility.
All in all, keep a record of what hashtags you always use and what your go-tos are. Keep track of when you use new ones, and when you see a spike in engagement or content performance. Instagram users with really successful profiles make it look so easy, but you can bet that they’ve got a strategy that helps them maintain that performance and keep their content doing well on Instagram.
With the new year approaching, take the last few weeks of 2020 to do some experiments and tests with new hashtags. Do your research, check out your competitors, see what’s worked for you in the past, and take advantage of current events and holiday trends that are happening on Instagram.
Hashtags have a huge impact on how your content is discovered, so you should never neglect to use them in your content. You should also use them in your Instagram stories, as Instagram stories also appear in hashtag feeds and your story could even be featured in the hashtag feed story, which will create even more reach for your content.
In addition to the tips above, you should always be aware of what’s trending on Instagram and what’s viral so that you can stay relevant and hip to what people are looking for in terms of content. Happy hashtagging!